Christmas Eve. Boston Globe 1893 – HE KEPT HIS PROMISE. Loss of Ring Nearly Cost McAchen his Life. Adrift of the Banks, He Found It in the Belly of a Codfish. Arrived in Gloucester to Marry his Mollie

With a headline sounding like a poem or song, this memorable Gloucester Christmas eve tale by Tom Herbert was published in the Boston Globe in 1893. Local mentions: Main Street, Duncan Street, Western Banks, sch. Star of the East, Eastern Point lighthouse, Thacher’s Island, Ten Pound Island, and codfish.

A fun read aloud for Christmas eve.

“Such a dread as I have of your going away so late in the fall,” said pretty Mollie MacDonald to her lover. “And remember we are to be married Christmas eve.”

“Why it’s only a three weeks’ trip, Mollie, to the Western banks,” said mcAchen, “and you would not like to have me loafing around Gloucester and have my ‘chummies’ laughing at me. Then you know, too, I am shipped in the famous Star of the East and we will sail at daybreak.”

“But what about the engagement ring, Angus? All our friends know we are to marry and when you are 300 miles from Gloucester a little token, which I would war on my finger, would often remind me of you and remind me to pray for your safe return, for you know December is a treacherous month for fishermen.”

“I forgot that, Mollie, and now every store on Main Street is closed, but here is a silver band my mother wore,” said he, as he placed the ring on her finger.

“And here’s my mother’s engagement ring,” said Mollie: “a hoop of gold with two hearts. Don’t lose it, for I hold it as sacred as I do your love.”

“I’ll bring it back to you if I live to make the trip. But I must hurry, as most of the crew are on board and a dory will be sent ashore at 1 o’clock for the lads that stop to kiss the girls they love goodby, and I will do the same.”

So they parted, he going down Duncan Street, and on arriving

At the Steamboat Wharf

met a half dozen of his shipmates. Then all went on board and turned in.

That night it breezed up from the northwest. It grew colder, and as the barometer gave evidences of a coming storm, Capt. “Bill.” who skipped the craft, roused the “boys” out before daybreak to sight the anchor. Half an hour later the schooner passed Eastern point lighthouse.

Away scudded the schooner before the fast freshening gale under a single reefed foresail, the swash of the seas as they spurted in through the lee scuppers fast forming ice on the deck.

Once clear of Thacher’s island, all hands turned to fit new fishing gear, and the conversation started, turned to the prospects of the trip.

“Some of the ‘killers’ found fish plenty on the eastern edge,” said one, but Capt. Billy had planned his trip to fish in 90 fathoms of water, near the spot where he had “rafted” in a big trip the year before.

Angus was one of the “afterguards,” as the fishermen term those who bunk in the cabin, and while “fitting” his trawls he was very quiet and especially thoughtful when he revolved the gold band on his finger.

His usual buoyant manner had departed. He was ill at ease and very slow at tying on the hooks.

Once he dropped the lines to the floor and lifting his mattress took out a book as if to read, but he was gazing

On the Photograph

of pretty Mollie Macdonald.

The run to the banks was a quick one, and when the proper surroundings were found the anchor was let go and plenty of “scope” payed out.

That night all hands baited up their trawls which were set at daybreak, and the first haul resulted in a catch of 8000 pounds of cod, every dory coming alongside the schooner loaded to the gunwale.

Angus brightened up at the prospect of a quick trip and a big check.

During the second night on the fishing grounds something happened which later came near costing Angus his life.

All hands were in the gurry kids dressing the fish, and as it was a breezy time all hands worked with a will to get the fish below and batten down the hatches.

After supper extra strads were wound around the cable, the anchor light set on the forepeak halyards, the decks cleared and extra lashings placed on the dories.

When everything was made snug the watch took the deck to keep a bright lookout for vessels that might strike adrift and foul the schooner.

In the cabin sat Angus, who remarked that “it was going to be a nasty night,” and stepping to the after part of the cabin raised his hand to adjust the guide hand of the barometer when he noticed that the ring was gone.

Lantern in hand he rushed to the deck and searched, but no sign of the ring, and when he came down below great tears of sorrow coursed down his bronzed cheeks.

His shipmates looked but did not ask the cause of his sorrow, for Angus was a strong man and might take offense.

Kneeling beside the transom near his berth he

Reached for the Book,

and after gazing on the picture of Mollie for a moment turned and said:

“Boys, I’ve lost her ring, it was gold with two hearts; it was our engagement ring; she gave it to me the night we sailed from Gloucester and I promised her that if I lived I would bring back the ring, but now it is gone.”

That night the wind blew a gale; Angus turned in, but not to sleep.

Towards midnight he was seen going about the deck with the lantern looking for the ring, but he did not find it and had to be coaxed to go below by his shipmates. When he was called to his watch on deck he only raved about the lost ring.

At daybreak all hands were on deck awaiting the word of the skipper to go and haul their trawls, which were set a short distance from the vessel.

Two dories had been launched, and then the captain said, “Hoist those dories in, it is not a fit day to put a dog in a dory, let alone a man.”

While the starboard gang were busy getting their dory aboard, Angus asked his dorymate if he would go and haul trawls, and receiving a positive no, cast off the painter, jumped into his dory, and rowed for his flag buoy half a mile distant.

The seas ran high, and like a cockleshell the dory drifted to leeward on the crest of every wave.

The crew saw that he did not reach the windward end of the trawls, but later could discern him hauling from the lee ends.

Was he mad was the question with the crew, and would he live to haul the trawls and return to the schooner?

Being anchored, there was no possibility of the vessel rendering assistance unless to

Cut the Cable

and try and pick the frantic man up, but that would not do, especially when he took his life in his own hands without the consent of the skipper.

For an hour they watched him from the deck. Then came a snow squall which shut out their view and when it cleared the dory was not in sight.

Ten days later the Star of the East sailed into Gloucester with her flag at half-mast, and on the end of the Fort wharf stood Mollie. She looked paler and thinner than when Angus and she parted not quite three weeks before, and with lips parted she gazed at the incoming craft.

The ever anxious crowd had congregated, and as the schooner tacked in towards Ten Pound Island, an old wharf hand said: “Why, that’s the Star of the East! I wonder who she’s lost.”

That was sufficient for the poor girl to hear. She knew by the slow beating of her heart that Angus was not on board, so she sorrowfully wended her way homeward to find consolation in prayer.

When the sad news reached her she quietly said: “Angus must have lost my ring or he would be here and well.”

‘Twas the old story that the skipper told, “lost while attending the trawls.”

When the snow shut out the vessel from Angus’ view he began to realize his danger and hauled away like mad; then came a fastening on the bottom which would not give way to his strong arms and the trawl parted.

Oars were of no use except to keep the head of the dory up to the sea, and when the snow cleared off he was miles from the vessel.

He was hungry and thirsty, but he thought not of death; his one thought was of Mollie and the lost ring.

All that day he drifted before the gale that moderated at sundown, but no vessel could he see, look where he would.

That night he rowed to keep his blood in circulation, and at sunrise saw a sail five miles away.

Towards evening he was almost insane from thirst, but thinking a moment, he remembered having heard of men who found fresh water in the belly of a cod.

To rip open a codfish was but the work of a minute, then holding it so that not a drop of the precious fluid would escape, he drank.

It tasted brackish, but was better than none. Then he cut out the “poke” that he thought would be more palatable than the flesh.

What possessed him to cut it he never could tell, but when it was laid open with the knife there was

The Hoop of Gold

with two hearts, the ring he lost while dressing fish in the gurry kid on the vessel.

Clutching the ring he forgot his hunger and thirst, his only thoughts were of her who was his promised bride.

After kissing the cherished treasure again and again, he unbuttoned his oil jacket and in the top vest pocket over his heart he placed the ring.

“Now I will live, and, with the help of God, keep my promise,” he said.

The sea had gone down, and as no vessel was in sight, he lashed the flag of his buoy to an oar, and having lashed it in an upright position, he coiled himself up in the bow and was soon fast asleep.

How long he slept he knows not, but it must have been six hours, for he was suddenly awakened by the dory tossing about in a peculiar way.

Raising himself he saw a large steamer close by. The crew seemed to be making ready to lower boats, then he waved his sou’wester and got an answer in return.

Directly he was alongside of the ship and soon on board, where he was well cared for by the captain of the English freighter that had experienced heavy gales, was short of coal and was bound to Halifax to get a new supply.

In two days from that time, Angus was bound to Boston by rail, and after arriving took the evening train for Gloucester and sent a messenger to Mollie to say that he would fulfill his promise, marry her that same night, Christmas eve.

(The end.)

“Loss of a Ring Nearly Cost McAchen His Life. Adrift Off the Banks, He Found It In the Belly of a Codfish. Arrived in Gloucester in Season to Marry His Mollie Christmas Eve” by Tom Herbert, Boston Globe; Dec 25, 1893. On page 6, with obits and other news. Herbert published a similar read in 1890 which I’ll post Christmas day.

Sacred cod indeed!

The schooner Star of the East that fished out of Gloucester for years was built in 1867 in Boothbay Maine by Joseph Bearse. In 1882 the average number of vessels and tonnage enrolled: 483 vessels (423 to Gloucester- 353 schooners, 4 sloops, 1 yacht, 6 teamers and 59 boats) 17, 809.75 tonnage.

A few years later, a true Christmas eve event in Gloucester was reported in the Boston Globe 1898 Dec. 24

Fishermen’s Christmas: Good Cheer Provided in Gloucester for men Away From Home

Christmas was celebrated this evening at the Fishermen’s Institute on Duncan Street in a unique manner. Chaplain E. C. Charlton of the Institute invited the fishermen of the city away from home to become his guests, and to the number of several hundred they responded.

Men of all the northern nationalities were comprised in the audience, some wearing boiled shirts, others with their sea clothes on, but all were welcomed alike. There were two Christmas trees. A Short entertainment was given while Mrs. Charlton, wife of the chaplain, was busy at a table cutting cake which had been donated. This with hot coffee was passed around.

Comfort bags were donated by the King’s Daughters from all over the union were given every fishermen present and went into hands where they will be appreciated. They contain articles which will prove very useful to a sailor. Bags of confectionery, apples, etc were passed around, and altogether the fishermen’s Christmas was highly appreciated.

#gloucesterma STORM PHOTOS – GOOD HARBOR BEACH, EASTERN POINT LIGHTHOUSE, DOGBAR BREAKWATER, BACK SHORE, TEN POUND ISLAND, BRACE COVE, MOTHER ANN

Scenes from around the eastern end of Gloucester – churning seas, leaden clouds, and great puffs of wind – the waves weren’t super, super huge at 4pm but there was still great crashing action over the Dogbar.

Herring Gull and Brant Geese taking shelter (and fighting) at the little cove at Easter Point Light

FAREWELL SCHOONER ALERT

The beautiful Schooner Alert setting sail and departing Gloucester at first light.

About Schooner Alert

In 1992 Schooner ALERT was launched and christened TALL COTTON, a southern expression that means Finest Kind. She was designed and built by Paul Rollins in York, Maine. Built for a charter business the owner abandoned the idea, no charters we ever done, and the beautiful vessel was abandoned for at least 10 years.

She was purchased by Roger Woodman in 2006. Woodman changed her name to ALERT and started a new life for this fine boat fitting her out for commercial fishing and research. ALERT operated out of Portland, Maine until 2012.

In 2013 ALERT was sold to Captains Perry Davis and Bethany McNelly-Davis. They have been sailing out of Bailey Island, Maine hosting charters on the ketch TEVAKE since 2006. They converted the ALERT from a commercial fishing schooner to a commercial passenger carrying vessel. In September 2013 ALERT was awarded a certificate of inspection by the United States Coast Guard to carry 28 passengers.

Schooner ALERT Windjammer Cruises collaborates with schools to offer a tall ship experience that caters to their curriculum. Island Adventure trips are offered to students and private parties. The Harpswell based Tall Ship aims to serve their community and get the best out of every day we are given.

The Schooner ALERT and Ketch TEVAKE operate out of Garrison Cove on Bailey Island, Maine hosting two, four, and six hour public and private sailing charters.

GMG reader asks: Where have all the foghorns gone?

Annisquam Light_20190502_Gloucester MA_ © c ryan.jpg

Question

“I’ve been living in Gloucester now since 2013 (and love it of course!). When we first moved to the city, we could hear the foghorns during inclement weather. However, about a year ago, I noticed that I no longer hear them. I loved this soothing sound on a gray day and am wondering what happened? Have the foghorns been turned off? Thanks!” –Patricia

Answer

Sort of. The foghorn sound has not changed but their frequency has dropped significantly because the systems are no longer automated in situ on light house grounds. Instead, foghorns are on demand now, manually kicked in by vessel operators. They are VHF automated to frequency 83 Alpha.  Five or more consecutive clicks sets the foghorn off for 30, 45 and 60 minutes depending upon the lighthouse.

The USCG in Gloucester explained that the USCGNortheast out of Boston tends the Cape Ann Lighthouses, albeit Thacher Island North Light which is private. The USCG  division responsible for all technology elements is called the “Aids to Navigation Team”, aka the USCGNortheast ANT unit.

Since 2010, slowly but surely the USCG has been replacing the automated VM-100 fog detector systems with  “Marine Radio Activated Sound Signal” or MRASS systems. VM-100 were problematic as parts were no longer fabricated and the systems were deemed less reliable and obsolete. Boaters rely on common knowledge. Many access USCG light list, GPS on their cellphones, chartplotters, and radar. When the weather hedges to the odds of even one boater being confused by fog, evidence suggests crowdsourcing engages the signal. Expect frequency to increase in summer when more boats are on the water.

The change was not without controversy. See the history of transition in Maine. Locally, a 2013 Gloucester Daily Times editorial expressed support of the Rockport Harbormasters’ opposition. Because of broad push back, the roll out was slowed down for better outreach and acceptance.  The “drop date” requiring all foghorns nationwide to be in compliance was May 1, 2019.

“The upkeep of the MRASS foghorns is so much easier,” explains Petty Officer ONeal of the USCG ANT in Boston. “All the foghorns from Plymouth to Newburyport have been converted. Eastern Point was switched over yesterday.”

I sympathize with this lament for the foghorn. And I appreciate the challenge of maintenance and adaptation. Understandably safety, navigation, cost and care were essential topics of discussion, less so audible texture, mood, sense of place & culture. (Never mind the challenge of mastering dead reckoning when vision fails.) The allure of the sound from shores, often traveling great distance, is in the ear of the listener. Beguiling. Haunting. Soothing. Despondent. Scary. Annoying [see bestselling author Elizabeth Stuart Phelps LTE complaints ca.1880 about the whistling buoy off Mother Ann and that’s no foghorn] What do you think, GMG readers, and vessel experts?

Like train engineers blowing the whistle obliging ogling toddlers, maybe a few boaters will queue the sound in dreary weather for pining landlubbers. Technology changes that’s certain. Perhaps the poetic qualities will be baked into future foghorn design despite obsolescence.

The MRASS system is robust and here now. Thanks to USCG Gloucester and Petty Officer ONeal USCGNortheast ANT unit Boston for confirming details and to GMG reader Patricia for a great inquiry!

 

 

 

 

SNOWY DAY IN GLOUCESTER with YOUNG SWANS, SAINT ANTHONYS-BY-THE-SEA, TEN POUND ISLAND, BRACE COVE, PAINT FACTORY, AND MORE

The prettiest kind of snowy day, not too cold, with swirly fluffy flakes.

#GLOUCESTERMA DEEP FREEZE SEA SMOKE GOOD HARBOR BEACH, TWIN LIGHTS, EASTERN POINT, BACKSHORE, TEN POUND ISLAND, NILES POND

My fingers froze and I had to call it quits yet despite the bitterly cold five degree temperature and biting wind, day break brought blue skies and beautiful sea smoke all along the backshore, from Gloucester’s Ten Pound Island Lighthouse to Rockport’s Twin Lighthouses.

Take heart friends -today is the last day of January- only 48 more days until the spring equinox!

Fresh wild animal tracks crossing Niles Pond